The shared-housing company has unveiled its most ambitious endeavor yet — Trips — designed to help travelers not only book accommodations but also book activities like cooking and painting lessons; take audio walking tours; and attend meetups.
Airbnb, the peer-to-peer accommodations site where travelers book everything from single rooms to entire villas, has spent the past couple of years branching out. It has teamed up with airlines like Delta and Virgin America to give miles to travelers who book stays. And it has teamed up with travel management companies including American Express Global Business Travel on its Airbnb for Business program, which includes homes with business essentials such as Wi-Fi and laptop-friendly workspaces.
Now, the company has unveiled its most ambitious endeavor yet — Trips — designed to help travelers not only book accommodations but also book activities like cooking and painting lessons; take audio walking tours; and attend meetups. Soon users will be able to make restaurant reservations through the Airbnb app. And the company says car rentals, grocery deliveries and even flights are in the works, further propelling Airbnb toward being a full-fledged travel company.
“This is literally just the beginning,” Brian Chesky, Airbnb’s chief executive, said in November at the Airbnb Open in Los Angeles, where the company’s leaders discussed what’s in the pipeline. So far, Trips has experiences available in a dozen cities worldwide: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, Detroit, Havana, London, Paris, Florence, Nairobi, Cape Town, Tokyo and Seoul. Chesky said that it would expand to more than 50 cities next year.
Trips includes three categories (for now), which appear at the top of the Airbnb app: Experiences (activities such as following a member of the Tuscan Truffle Hunters Association through a forest in Italy, or motorcycling from Nairobi to Lake Naivasha with a biker); Places (online local guides for, say, finding authentic tacos and scenic trails; audio walking tours; and meetups); and Homes (Airbnb offers about 3 million rentals). It plans to add additional categories such as flights, although exactly what that might include remains to be seen.
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What awaits you in Trips? Let’s take a look.
While researching flights and hotels online has become second nature, few companies have managed to offer a worldwide variety of local experiences and make them easy and attractive to browse. Few sites offer consistency when it comes to particulars like photos, clutter-free pages and reviews. And not all sites offer the chance to communicate with a guide in advance.
Airbnb’s “Experiences,” which you can browse in thumbnails that call to mind old movie posters, are clear and fleshed out and allow travelers to post reviews and contact hosts in advance. Experiences vary in length and cost, such as “Biking Hidden Tokyo,” a three-day cycling tour (with stops for meals) for $301, or “Bubbly With a View,” a four-hour wine-estate tour and tasting of Methode Cap Classique, a South African style of wine, in the Franschhoek wine valley for $73. Half the experiences offered on Airbnb are below $200, Chesky said.
Airbnb divides experiences into multiday “immersions” or single experiences (just a few hours). You can filter by interest, such as “food & drink,” “history,” “nature,” “wellness,” “fashion,” “sports,” “arts” and “social impact,” which are experiences offered for the benefit of nonprofit organizations like the Nelson Mandela Foundation and Facing Change: Documenting Detroit.
Beginning last month, would-be hosts in the dozen cities mentioned above, as well as in nearly 40 more — including Berlin, Cartagena, Chicago, Dubai, New Delhi, Reykjavik, Singapore, Tel Aviv and Toronto — could begin asking to list their experiences with Airbnb.
An experience purchased through the site can be canceled within 24 hours of booking for a full refund. If you cancel 30 days or more before the experience, you are also eligible for a full refund. If, however, you cancel less than 30 days before the start date, you won’t receive a refund, unless the spot is booked and the experience completed by another guest. More details are at Airbnb.com/experiences/cancellation-policy.
Airbnb has also introduced a new identity-authentication process for those offering and booking experiences. They have to scan an official government ID (like a passport) and then take a selfie in real time (which must match the ID photo). While meant to help protect users, these and other security measures raise privacy concerns. For instance, the site stores your government ID photo, and information you provide to Airbnb is shared with third-party partners. To help make an informed decision about whether you want to participate, check out the site’s “help” section for details.
The “Places” category focuses on sightseeing. This includes free themed guides written by local influencers about their own cities. A pianist in Havana, for instance, writes about where to hear live music like salsa and jazz. A booking agent in California writes about the Los Angeles rock scene. So far, there are 100 such guides in six cities: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Havana, Nairobi, Detroit and Seoul.
In addition to guides, Places also offers audio walking tours. Airbnb partnered with Detour, which creates GPS tours of cities. Right now the tours are available only in certain areas of downtown Los Angeles and can be downloaded free. In the spring of 2017, additional city tours will include San Francisco, Paris, London, Tokyo and Seoul.
Under “Places,” users may also find Meetups — free get-togethers for Airbnb users hosted by local businesses. A feature called Nearby Now offers tips and advice for places around you, like restaurants. For those on the go, a partnership with a restaurant booking platform called Resy will soon allow travelers to book tables at such restaurants through the Airbnb app. Resy said the feature will be available in early 2017.
The “Homes” tab includes Airbnb’s rentals. In the future, users will be able to use the “Homes” tab to have groceries delivered to their Airbnb. They will also be able to book rental cars.